Muk Muk loves Mountain Dew

This morning it still felt like we had a long way to walk down to the Interstate Highway 10. A few miles down there was fresh spring water to fill up with. This is where we met Bob who was responsible for guarding the fresh water source to ensure it wouldn’t become contaminated by trespassers. Bob said we were in much better shape and spirits than some of the other hikers he’d come across at this point. He told us he’d seen Wendy the day before and directed us down the road which was actually the PCT, leading us to the Interstate 10.

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Our next stop was Ziggy and the Bear, two trail angels who actually bought a property right on the PCT so they can help out hikers. Incredible. Before we reached their home we hit a road and rail overpass where coolers of soda were awaiting us. The drinks were icy cold and after walking across the windy desert floor to get there I can tell you that Mountain Dew has never tasted better.

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Again I can’t believe people take such good care of us hikers. We wrote our names in the register and I drew a little picture of Muk Muk on the wall. While we were there another trail angel arrived to drop off some fresh bottles of water. She kindly took the photo of Chris and I below.

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Then it was on to Ziggy and the Bear. I had to stop for a quick pee break and after continuing on some distance realised that I’d left behind my sun gloves. I dumped my pack and ran back, surprised not only by how far I’d already walked but also by how easily I could run without all the weight on my back. I was so lucky to find them as the wind was blowing a gale and the landscape all looked the same. The only way I knew approximately where they were was by a note Chris had written on the ground when he’d walked ahead of me. Those who know me well will understand the relevance of the name ‘Poo Bear’.

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When I arrived at Ziggy and the Bear’s, ‘the Bear’ greeted me, instructed me to put my pack down and then brought me a warm foot bath with Epsom salts in it to soak my feet in. I was given a towel for my feet and an additional towel for the shower. There was a basin where we could wash clothes and free Gatorade to drink. This place was unbelievable. We all had to sign in and have our picture taken for their records. I was the 269th hiker to come through this year which means I’m still slightly ahead of the pack.

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Chris had a couple of boxes sent to the house, one from his mum which had his food resupply until Big Bear City, three days away. When he opened it he discovered enough food to make it through California!

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After a shower I rested in the sun for a while before having pizza and Root Beer. The overdose of fizzy drink played havoc with my stomach and poor ‘Poo Bear’ had to spend some time in the porter loos before heading out around 7pm to night hike 9 miles to the next water source.

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As the sun went down the trail went up, climbing 1,800 feet before winding down some steep ridges with the wind pounding us from all sides. We were actually glad to be doing this section in the dark, 1. because we couldn’t see just how far down the cliffs were and 2. because we didn’t have to walk it in the scorching sunshine.

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We made it to camp around 10pm and polished off a hot chocolate and coffee scroll to end another successful 15 mile day, especially considering the long break soaking up the hospitality of such generous trail angels.

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Sunrise on San Jacinto

I had the alarm set for 4am this morning and snoozed for a full hour until I saw light starting to creep through the cracks of the hut. I woke up Chris and we both ran up to the peak with a bag of granola and our cameras.

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It was extremely cold waiting for the sun to come up. There were some magnificent colours in the sky but after waiting almost an hour we both thought that maybe there was too much cloud cover to see any more. That’s when suddenly this big glowing red ball peeked out of the cloud cover. It was so unexpected and surreal the way it rose out of the clouds, like the world was giving birth to a huge red burning mass. The picture doesn’t quite capture the effect but it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

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After a quick cup of coffee in the hut it was time to pack up and hit the trail again. The walk to the stream was an easy one but after filling up on 5 litres of water to last the next 20 miles my pack was back to it’s regular heavy weight. I felt like a donkey trying to move it up some of the switch backs that followed.

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Fuller Ridge had been talked up to be one of the most treacherous parts of the trail. I hadn’t read this myself but Chris had slight anxiety about this track and we had heard there was lots of snow from hikers that had passed that section earlier. We reached the end before realising we’d even gone through it. I guess the snow must have melted pretty quickly. There is a big storm expected to roll in tomorrow so I’m glad we missed it by at least a day.

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I could see some of the forest fires that have been reported near the trail burning in the distance. They’re about 15 miles away and blowing in the opposite direction for now so hopefully they won’t affect the trail.

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The rest of the day was downhill. I wore both my ankle and knee brace which was lucky because both Chris and I took a few falls on the way down and there were so many rocks to twist my ankles on. I also used some of Igor’s magic cream for my sore shoulders. He wasn’t lying when he said the cream will heat up the skin. It got so hot in fact that I had to pour water down my back to cool off.

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The whole way down I could still see the peak we’d come from in the distance. We made it to mile 200 today but my legs had put in such an effort yesterday and today that I couldn’t go much further.

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We set up camp in a windy ridge not far beyond the 200 mile mark. My tent does not do well in the wind so I have at least 6 big rocks holding it down tonight. Hopefully this time it will remain upright!

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Sleeping above the clouds

I’m about to fall asleep inside a small hut a few steps from the top of San Jacinto peak at an elevation of 10,800 feet.

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After leaving Idyllwild at 3pm Chris and I decided it would be awesome to camp as close to the summit as possible and watch the sunrise; we didn’t expect to reach the top to see the sun set as well.

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The climb from Idylwild was straight up for close to 10 miles and with 6 days of food in my pack it was a struggle. If I didn’t have Chris’ feet to follow I don’t think I could have made it, but after hearing about the hut at the top we were both determined to reach there before dark.

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The day started with a visit from Dr Sole and coffee and scones with Wendy. She wanted to hit the trail early but I still had a few chores on my list including buying lunch food, cleaning out my tent and re-visiting the post office. Chris and I went back to the Red Kettle for lunch with another hiker called Austin. Once we’d ingested as much food as could possibly fit I asked a lady who was about to get into her car if we could have a lift to the trailhead. Not only did she drive us, she also gave us extra water to take with us when Chris realised he hadn’t filled up before leaving town.

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We met a lot of day hikers coming back from the peak who all seemed to think it would take us a lot longer to reach the top, especially from the look of our heavy packs. The climb reminded me slightly of Kilimanjaro, just one foot in front of the other, breathing hard because of altitude and feeling slightly light headed. When we reached the hut we dropped our packs and booked it up the rocks to watch the last bit of sunlight dip beneath the horizon.

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There wasn’t another soul up here even though we were told the hut may already be full of hikers. There are two bunk beds inside with sleeping mats and bags on them. I freaked out about bed bugs so I took all the bedding off and replaced it with my own. We then set up both stoves and had a sophisticated dinner on the floor of the hut consisting of chicken and vegetable pasta, carrot cake for dessert and peppermint tea.

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I’ve got the alarm set for 4am so we can run up to the peak and watch the sun rise. After that we have a long hot stretch without water so a siesta may be in order. It’s such a novelty to be sleeping in a bed this high up in the wilderness.

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Watch the trail in motion

If there’s one person on the trail more passionate about telling their story of this adventure than me it’s Chris. He started his blog in early January and has an incredibly emotional story to tell of the events in his life that brought him to the trail. He spent a lot of time in Idyllwild editing the videos he’s been taking along the way. As I haven’t been taking video myself I highly suggest you check out his sight in conjunction with mine to get a real sense of what it’s like to be out here. He’ll be keeping a video journal of the entire experience so take a look: www.ubserious.wordpress.com

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Wind swept

I slept no more than an hour last night, partly because the wind was so fierce the sheer noise kept me awake, but also because the bottom of my tent came unpegged and the structure collapsed over my legs. This meant I had to sleep in a fetal position in the middle of the tent to avoid the fly whipping into my sides.

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Everyone slept pretty badly but my tent was definitely in the worst shape this morning. It was still so windy that we hit the trail without having breakfast, also because we were extremely low on water and still 2 miles from the next stream.

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We still had to climb higher, so much so we crossed one patch of snow. Man the Sierra’s are going to be a challenge, luckily it’s been a low snow year. I’m going to have to acclimatise to the colder weather soon, I was too spoiled by the Melbourne summer this year!

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There were seven of us heading down the Devil’s Side Trail into Idyllwild this morning. We were moving at a pace somewhere between a fast walk and a run as our packs were light without any food left and minimal water. The hike back up tomorrow is going to be very tough with 7 days of food and lots of water. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it as I sit by the fire in my cosy cabin.

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When we got to the bottom of the trail the other five went ahead and luckily Chris and I were able to get a ride really quickly with a man named Brad. Once in town we hunted down Wendy and the cabin and were suddenly overwhelmed by the sight of a shower and a real bed. As we headed to the Red Kettle for breakfast I realised how much we were struggling with re-entry into the ‘real world’. Crossing the road, deciding what to eat, communicating with non hikers was suddenly more difficult than expected. We were both struck with sensory overload and more than excited by fresh coffee and steak and eggs for breakfast.

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Although I was running on very little sleep I still had many tasks to complete after a long, slow breakfast. First stop shower, then laundry, then to the gear store to purchase new tips for my hiking poles, toe socks to stop blisters and more moleskin. Then it was off to the post office. My resupply box was extremely heavy with 7 days of food and I carried it across town to the supermarket and hardware store to buy HEET before remembering that BJ had sent me my special cream from Igor for my sore shoulder. Luckily I went back to the post office because they actually had another package for me from Belinda and Josh. When the lady handed them over I almost got teary. I can tell you that emotions are extremely heightened out here and acts of kindness mean so much when you’re surviving off so little.

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I found myself a new t-shirt in the hiker box today which says ‘Wild and Free’, very fitting and perfect for when all my hiking clothes are in the laundry. Chris found himself a pair of shorts but unfortunately they were contaminated with poison oak and he broke out in a huge rash.

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When we finally got our laundry back half of my clothes were stuck to his and we lost it after Chris put on his clean pants and my handkerchief and washcloth were attached to his knees.

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I bumped into Acid Glasses again at the post office so we all went to get pizza tonight. I went into OCD mode this evening trying to repack my bag with new supplies. Tomorrow morning Dr Sole is popping in for breakfast and then it’ll be back to the trail. I’ve got to say the transition back and forth is still quite a challenge.

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The only way is up

It’s 16:47 and I am absolutely beat. I had read in Yogi’s guide that this section of the trail is one of the steepest but I wasn’t quite expecting this. I’m in the San Jacinto Mountains which are absolutely breathtaking, but the hard rocks and incredibly steep trail are killing my feet.

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I’ve got terrible signal here which is odd because I feel like I’m on top of the world at the moment. The day started with 30 minutes of snoozing between 4:30 – 5:00am. It was cold outside so I did my usual cooking from inside the tent procedure although this time I set some dry grass on fire and had to cover it with my windshield to put it out. My hair needs a serious wash.

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Lots of hikers passed by my site this morning on the way to the spring which I expected. I had to walk the rest of the way down there myself and realised I probably could have made it to the next water source without making the 2 mile detour. Too late!

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The trail started climbing early on and I thought that was the steep section they were referring to in Yogi’s book. Oh no, the steep parts were still to come. I met a few new faces on the trail today, The Kid and Acid Glasses who I followed for 2 miles to the next water source. I hadn’t spoken to anyone for what seemed forever so the poor guy got exploded upon with conversation.

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We found a shady spot with two wooden chairs and decided to stop for lunch. Acid Glasses had a giant stack of ham and cheese which he planned to eat on one small bagel. He offered me a few slices to lighten the load which tasted fantastic after days of spam and beef jerky. Just as I was about to head down to the water source with my entire pack he suggested just taking my water bottles and filter as I needed to come back up the hill to the exact same place. Good thinking! This guy has done the Appalachian Trail and seems to know a few good ways to conserve energy.

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My small toe looks to be getting a little infected and sadly I’m without any neosporin after my pack shake down. I did however get a text from Dr Sole today who said he’ll be in Idyllwild on Friday! Wendy also said she made it there and has a room in her cabin for me tomorrow night. I was hoping to push to get there late tonight but I had no idea the terrain would be like this. I’m still 6 miles from where I hoped to finish up today and I seem to be going at a pace of 1 mph.

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Since I started this post I’ve hiked the most excruciating 4 miles with Chris to a campsite 4 miles from Idyllwild. Just as I was in the bushes about to pee I heard “Muk Muk” being called and I ran out to see that he’d finally caught up with me. We had two choices for camping, a site 1.3 miles or one just over 4 miles. In our exuberance we decided on the later and boy did we have to work for it. I was pretty sure I was going to faint or vomit when I got there but we arrived in one piece just as it was getting dark and joined another group of hikers camping 8000 feet above sea level. It’s windy as hell and I’m pretty certain I’m going to be blown over the edge! Could be a restless night!

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Welcome to Paradise

Exactly one mile east of the trail at Hwy 74 (mile 152) lies a hiker haven called Paradise Cafe. As Tuesday is their one day closed during the week there was a lot of talk as to whether or not it would be open. Luckily I heard from Wendy further up the trail who said the cafe was open until 3pm today. I hadn’t planned to go but after my feet were giving me grief I figured it would be the perfect spot to give them a rest!

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I had already popped the blister on my little toe twice last night so this morning I got out the pin and created a hole big enough that wouldn’t heal shut, a tactic passed on from dear Dr Sole.

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It was a cold windy morning so I made coffee and breakfast just outside my tent so I could remain in my sleeping bag. I was on the road by 6:30am and only half a mile from the water cache. I only took 3 litres this time which helped a lot once the trail started climbing through the mountains again.

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I felt fantastic for the first 7 miles, then my feet really started to ache. I think they were complaining about the 20 mile day yesterday. I usually stop at intervals to take off my shoes and give them a good massage which helps a lot, especially this time before the one mile road walk to the cafe.

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I considered hitching but wasn’t really sure what to do. At first I just hoped someone would stop, then I tried facing the traffic and smiling before I got enough courage to stick out my thumb. After three cars sped past I decided to give it up and walk. I hope my attempts improve as the distances to town increase.

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I had the Jose Burger which everyone raves about in Yogi’s guide, without jalapeños. It was quite delicious, but that and a lemonade played havoc with my hiker food accustomed stomach, all the more reason to lie in the shade for the afternoon before putting in a few more miles.

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I’m currently nestled between a few bushes about half a mile from the next water source on a side trail off the PCT. I have no service at the moment so hopefully I can post this in the morning.

I got a message from Chris this afternoon saying he had called the Paradise Cafe to ask them to leave his resupply box outside as he expected to get there this evening. When I was half a mile heading back to the trail I realised I could pick up the box and take it back to the trail with me to save him the 2 mile walk. When I got back to the cafe I met a guy called White Lightning who immediately said “you must be Muk Muk!” He had been hiking with Chris but sped ahead to try and reach the cafe before it closed. He said not to worry about taking the box as they were going to meet at the cafe, but for my troubles I managed to hitch a ride back to the trail in the back of a van next to a couple of surfboards with a man named Bill.

I had a day hiker follow me for the first 3 miles after the cafe and ask me all sorts of questions about the trail. I had just tried putting two insoles in my shoes and because I was chatting I ignored the pain on the top of my right foot until it had created a painful gash over my big toe. When the other hiker left I got fed up with the pain in my feet, threw down my hiking poles and tore off my shoes. I decided the only way I could keep going was to wear my trusty purple Frocs. As difficult as they were to walk in, especially given the steep rocky incline I was travelling on, they actually felt a lot better and spurred thoughts of new footwear possibilities. I walked over 5 miles in my Frocs before I came to the steep rocky trail down to the Live Oak Spring which I’m camped on now. It’s 22 miles to Idyllwild so I won’t make it tomorrow like I’d hoped but I have plenty of food to keep me going. I even dropped off about four dinners and a few extra bits in the hiker box at the cafe to lighten my load.